When it comes to Paid Time Off (PTO), workers in the United States generally get the short end of the stick. In fact, whereas workers in nearly every other country are entitled to X amount of vacation days off per year (anywhere from 10 to 31, not including paid public holidays), there are no federal laws that require U.S. employers to guarantee any amount of vacation time (the U.S. is the only advanced economy with no federally mandated paid vacation days or holidays).
True, there are some employers that give fantastic PTO packages. Case in point, I used to work in a hospital where, after 10 years of employment, I was accruing 6 weeks vacation time per year (that was on top of 8 paid holidays, 5 sick days and 4 personal days per year). I also have a friend who has unlimited PTO – as long as he gets all of his work done, he can take off as much time as he wants. On the other hand, I used to have a friend who was a florist – she got 1 week of paid time off per year, and it could never be any time before a major holiday when flowers were given (i.e. Easter, Mother’s Day, Christmas, etc.). And according to a 2019 report from Washington think tank Center for Economic and Policy Research, about one in four American workers don’t get any paid vacation days or holidays.
That being said, 75% of us do get PTO. And, not surprisingly, most of us try to use that time to get the most metaphorical bang for our buck. In fact, a meme, which has recently been making the rounds on Facebook, reflects that very mindset. It explains how you can get 46 days off using 18 days of PTO time.
How to get 46 days off using 18 days of PTO
If you take the Thursday and Friday before MLK Day off you’ll get 5 consecutive days off.
If you take the four days before Good Friday off you’ll have a ten day break.
If you take the Monday before July 4th off you’ll get a four day break.
If you take off 5 days after Veteran’s day and 3 days before Thanksgiving you’ll get 17 consecutive days off
If you take 4 days between Christmas and New Years off you’ll have 10 consecutive days off.
And yes, I realize the meme doesn’t add up to 18 days of PTO (just 14), or 46 days off in total (just 42). And it didn’t include all Federal holidays (where’s Memorial Day? Labor Day? Indigenous Peoples’ or Columbus Day?) But I have yet to see a copy of this meme without it looking like a line on the bottom was cut off, so I’ll give the writer the benefit of the doubt on that count. However, there are still plenty of problems with this “grand idea” of theirs:
Not everyone gets all of those holidays off
My aforementioned hospital, which was pretty darn generous with its time off, didn’t include Good Friday or “Easter Monday” in their list of paid holidays off. In fact, I don’t think either of those are even federal holidays. 😉
Other companies may or may not give off for Martin Luther King Day or Veteran’s Day but may give a day off for, say, Juneteenth (which is on a Monday in 2023, so hello, 3-day weekend, if you get it off).
Plus, of course, some companies that stay open 365 days per year may not allow their workers to take every holiday off.
Not everyone can take off whenever they want
Teachers in the U.S. are generally off for the summer and it’s expected they’ll take their vacations during that time frame. For them to request vacation time off during the rest of the year, especially for days at a time, may be very difficult. The same goes for kids in school – if they can’t get an excused absence from classes, their respective families won’t be vacationing when school is in session, either.
Other people work for companies that are closed for, let’s say, 2 weeks per year…a certain time frame in the summer, around Christmas, whatever – and that’s when they expect their employees to take their vacation time. The rest of the year, it has to be a big thing – wedding, funeral, bar mitzvah, etc. – to get extra time off.
OMG, the crowds!
Have you ever vacationed at any of the Disney parks the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day? Or gone to Mecca during the Hajj, or the Holy Land at Easter or Christmas time? What about spending time at the beach during the Fourth of July week? Or vacationed pretty much ANYWHERE in the U.S. during the summer? Crazy crowded right?
That’s because so many other people have the same ideas as you…kids are off from school, there may be a federal holiday in there so you use one less vacation day, some workers may be off for the summer, the weather may be great during a certain time of year, there’s a religion tie-in, etc.
If you don’t have a choice, well, I get it and I feel for you. But if you think mingling with a bajillion like-minded people for X number of days – potentially in really hot, humid weather (depending on the where and when), just to save one measly vacation day, is a good thing, well, you do you. 😉
This so-called “hack” isn’t new. Heck, I was piggybacking vacations to holidays off back in the 80s, and I’m sure people were doing it LONG before then, as well. But similar schemes were also suggested for 2022 (Cosmopolitan, Daily Mail [theirs was a UK version]), 2021 (Conde Nast Traveller, Women’s Health Magazine), 2020 (ABC, Huffington Post), etc.
It’s a good idea in theory. But in practice? Welp, as the good blog says, Your Mileage May Vary.
Feature Photo: Miniature couple relaxing at beach with Out of office text by Marco Verch under Creative Commons 2.0
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